Stuxnet virus strengthened Iranian nuclear programme: Report

The Stuxnet virus from 2009, which was supposedly designed to damage the Iranian nuclear programme, seems to have strengthened it instead. It looks like the virus has ended up helping the Iranians expose vulnerabilities in the enrichment facilities that would possibly have remained hidden from their eye.

According to a report published in the Royal United Services Institute journal, while Stuxnet may have had the potential to seriously damage the Iranian centrifuges, evidence of the worm’s impact is "circumstantial and inconclusive.” The virus has probably helped the country’s nuclear potential increase substantially in the year following the discovery of the virus attack.

A new line of attack. Image Source

Stuxnet did more good than harm


The research says that even as the Western world was under the influence that Iran’s nuclear facilities had suffered a major setback, it left the country to “progress quietly” with its programme of enriching more uranium.

In an analysis of the data collected by the International Atomic Energy Agency, it has been revealed that the number of operating machines at Natanz has been steadily growing ever since the attack. “Stuxnet was not very effective and was also ill-timed. If Iran had begun producing weapons-grade material, a cyber-attack could have bought concerned nations valuable time; it could have proved a crucial tactical advantage in dealing with the threat through other means,” reads the report by Ivanka Barzashka, a Research Associate at the Centre for Science and Security Studies of the Department of War Studies, King’s College London

However, Barzashka rightly points out that Iran was not on the brink of weaponising back in 2009 or 2010. Stuxnet, therefore, did not end up harming the programme or Iran’s bomb making potential. This is not to say that the Malware did not infiltrate the facility. It did, but had an effect contrary to what it was being used for. The Iranians learnt to become more cautious about such cyber-attacks that could happen in the future and the programme has remained unharmed.

Published Date: May 20, 2013 05:01 pm | Updated Date: May 20, 2013 05:01 pm